Gardyloo #19

The final copy of The Jerx, Volume One is available for $38,001.

That's because the most expensive magic book I could find was this 1st edition of the Discoverie of Witchcraft which sold for $38,000.

Now, my book is 100 times better than that hunk of turd, and it is with great modesty that I make my final copy available for just 1 dollar more. 

Does that make me a hero? No... I'm just a man. 

If you really want a copy of the book and can't afford that price, there are a few "imperfect" test versions available at the "Buy the Book" link in the main menu. Once those are gone, that's that.

Crazy Idea I've Been Researching This Week: I'm looking to see if it's possible to get a tattoo that is done, in part, with something similar to the ink in a Frixion pen. Then I could have a tattoo that morphed from one thing to another as it passed through a candle flame (or maybe just by generating some friction). Then "reset" with an ice cube.

Initial research is not looking promising. But that's okay because I have an even crazier tattoo concept I'm working on and just ordered some pig skin to test it out on.

The Customer Service Algorithm

I've been on a real Tenyo kick for the past few months after decades of only having the most casual interest in the brand/company. 

In celebration of a recent special occasion, a friend of mine got me a number of effects from Tenyo's newest releases. One of those tricks was Magic Maze. We opened the box to play around with it and found that it came with none of the cards that make up the effect. It just came with instructions and clothespins. 

When he tried to return the item to Penguin Magic, they said it was past the 45 day return policy and there was nothing they could do about it. 

My friend pointed out that it was a gift he bought early and he hadn't considered the idea he would need to open a Tenyo product to make sure the pieces were all there before giving it to someone as a gift.

Their response was that they "recommend[ed] purchasing the effect again."

I told him to tell them he has been a customer of theirs for almost 15 years, has spent 1000s of dollars there, and that he's not trying to rip them off over a $15 trick. But he didn't bother bringing that up. They'd already lost him. He switched his allegiances to another shop.

Now, I love Penguin. I will continue to shop there. I think they're a great company, they set the standard for an online magic shop, and they're constantly innovating. And I don't come here to wield my prodigious wang and say, "You need to make things right with my friend!" As I said, he's already moved on. He purchased the trick somewhere else. We're all set. 

I'm bringing this up because I want to offer a rule of thumb to magic dealers or any type of online merchants. When you're small you can be responsive and take care of your customers and it's very easy. But as you get larger you have to entrust others with your customer service, and these people give less of a shit if you look bad. Did the guy who was dealing with my friend care that he was suggesting my friend (actually me as I was the one who received the trick) be satisfied with a trick that came without the required props? Nah, fuck it, who cares? Does it make Penguin look bad? Yes. But it's not his company so he's not going to break a sweat.

Here is the rule of thumb that I helped implement when I was doing some consulting work with a couple non-magic online merchants. It's a win-win-win for everyone involved. It empowers employees, makes customers happy, and brings in more business for the owners. The rule is simply this: If there as an issue that can be solved by spending less than 1% of what the customer has spent at that company, then your customer service department can just go ahead and fix the issue. They don't need to get permission, they can just solve the problem. In fact, they're required to solve the problem, not deflect and dissuade and make someone jump through hoops.

So, in this case, instead of losing a customer who had spent $5000 or more with them, they just would have spent the $8 or whatever the wholesale price is and sent him a new trick.

But won't people take advantage of this?

No. Because people don't spend 5000 dollars so they have can get $50 worth of "potential issue insurance" which is what this amounts to. And if they did that would thrill a company. Ask Vanishing Inc if they'd be willing to give you a $50 voucher to cover potential issues if you spend $5000 there. You don't even have to ask them. I don't need to ask them either. They will. Trust me. 

But I still love you, Penguin. I sure as hell won't buy anyone a gift from you if it's not right up against their birthday, but you'll continue to be a store I regularly patronize. If nothing else we need to support Penguin to keep Dan Harlan off the streets.

It's well past Valentine's Day, but it's still February so it's not too late for this beautiful love poem to be relevant. It's called "Poem" by Ron Padgett.

Ladies & Gentlemen

This is a special announcement for my female readers.

Sorry, bitches!

You will not get your delicate paws on this close-up mat.

That's because, as the ad says, this is for the gentleman conjuror.

Oh, "Wah-wahh-wahhh!" Cram it, sister. I don't want to hear your whining. Go squeeze your boobs together, or whatever you ladies do with those things.

What were your plans for it anyway? Were you going to sop up your voluminous menstrual blood with it or some junk like that? This is a rich, velvety close-up pad for men. What don't you get about that? What are you even doing at this IBM ring meeting if you're not feeding or fellating us? There's no room for women in the refined art of wizard-pretending!

Magic is for sophisticated men like this

Or this

Or this

Magic provides me with the opportunity to gather with distinguished men such as these and to drink brandy and discuss Magic and Showmanship by Henning Nelms. Don't be naive, that book is just as relevant today as it ever was. You just don't understand it because your lady-brain is too full of Zumba routines, recipes, and the names of different breeds of horses to really "get" such a sophisticated art form.

What's next? You want to get your Lee Press-On Nails on our coin purses too?

Our gentleman's coin purses? The ones we keep our gentleman's coins in? Because that's where it seems like this is going. And you know a coin purse is a man's most sacred possession. The object by which other men judge his masculinity. Customarily they were made of a man's own scrotum.

Now, as the ad copy for this close-up pad says, it fits alongside your notebook, computer or tablet. These are instruments we men use for designing bridges and curing diseases. It does not say the close-up pad comfortably fits next to your mascara, vibrator, and Gilmore Girls DVDs. Because, let me repeat: This. Is. For. The. Gentleman. Conjuror.

I guess my main concern is this: The public perception of a "magician" is of a super-classy, gentleman. Yes, perhaps he has some of the traits of a scoundrel, but he has the heart of a noble man of good breeding. And we men have done such a commendable job of representing magicians as dashing, debonair men of taste and dignity that I'm a little concerned of what might happen if women were genuinely invited into the fold. Might they not undermine all the work we've done to build up magic as a hobby that is the epitome of urbane elegance?

And why can't they just use that close-up pad we designed specifically for them?

More Splooge

The Splooge was my lifestyle blog that took over this site a year or so ago. It taught you valuable things like the secret to happiness and how to keep from shitting your pants by sexually stimulating yourself.

The Splooge will be returning as a column in The JAMM. It may be an intermittent sort of thing. I don't know. The upcoming column deals with a couple techniques I've found helpful for giving compliments. Thje Splooge isn't directly magic related, although there may be some overlap. Does giving compliments have anything to do with magic? Hmmmm. Well, I'll say this. Both are often done out of faux-selflessness in hopes of receiving some response in return. So there's that relationship. But I'm not really attempting to draw correlations. This is likely just the first stage in The JAMM's evolution. Five years from now it will probably be some combination of Genii, Sassy, Spy Magazine, and Miniature Donkey Talk.

Get in on the ground floor before it really goes off the rails and subscribe here.

Thesis Statement

I had a pretty profound moment this weekend while working with one of the focus groups I mentioned last week. It was something a couple of the people said and it's related to a concept that I've been talking about here for almost two years, but they put it much more succinctly, and helped explain the "why" behind something I've been feeling instinctively for some time now. It could almost be a thesis statement for this site.

On the general form we give everyone to fill out before we start the group, there is a question we ask to get their broad feeling towards magic. We ask how much they like magic on a scale of 1 to 5. One being, "I don't like magic," and 5 being, "I love magic." These extreme ends are almost never selected, most people are a 2, 3, or 4. And, in particular, it's very rare for someone to pick, "I don't like magic," so when they do I always ask them about it. 

In this session, of the ten people there, two of them had selected "I don't like magic." Both were middle-aged women. 

Before we officially started the session I was informally talking with the two women as we sat at the table with the other participants. This was before we started recording the session, but to the best of my recollection this is how the conversation played out between me and the women who I'll call Anna and Beverly. Anna is a white woman, about 40, who had a background in theater. Beverly is a black woman in her mid-40s who is a stay-at-home mom who formerly worked in the finance industry.

Me: You both selected I don't like magic. That's pretty rare.

Beverly: Really?

Me: Yes. Is there a reason why? I always like to ask. I get some good stories. Was it a bad experience?

Beverly: No, it's just not for me, I guess.

Anna: Yeah.

Me: Not for you?

Anna: I just get a weird vibe from it.

Me: In what way?

Anna: Not like a supernatural or superstitious vibe. It's just a weird energy. It's like, "Look what I can do." 

Beverly: Right. "Look what I can do." And that's what kids say.

My partner who was at the table at the time said that everyone who was paying attention was nodding along too. 

Had my style of presentation not already diverged significantly from a demonstration of my "power" this would have been an even bigger moment for me. As it was, it just confirmed a lot of what I had been feeling about the performer/spectator relationship in magic and why making it about the magician has backfired for the modern performer.

We think we're coming off like a powerful god. "LOOK WHAT I CAN DO! BEHOLD MY AWESOME POWER!" We have these self-flattering pseudo-concerns, "Am I coming off too god-like? Do I need to tone it down?"

When really, many magicians are coming off as children craving attention. "Look what I can do!"

This is certainly much more in line with the reality of the reactions that many performers deal with day to day. "I just determined which hand was holding the coin by reading this person's body language and she said she wishes her kid was here to see this." "I just did my $400 book test and they asked me if I was available for children's parties." "I'm the most famous magician in the world. I've made 100s of millions of dollars. And the general public consensus is that I'm kind of a goofball."

This site is not about giving advice. I'm never trying to convince people that I have the answers. If I write definitively it's only because it would be annoying to read the site if I prefaced everything with "I feel..." or "In my opinion...." This site is only really about my journey with magic. And perhaps there is some universality in that and perhaps not. Selfishly, I like the poor reputation magic and magicians have. It lowers expectations and gives me something to play off of when I perform. So you can take or leave anything I say. It's genuinely fine by me. But if you've found yourself wondering why what you're performing doesn't have a bigger effect on people, and why they're not drawn more towards your performances, I can only say that in the past I've wondered the same things too. And the big change for me happened when I started shunning credit; when the essence of my performances became, "Huh, this is strange," "Check this out," or, "Look what you can do," rather than, "Look what I can do!"

The Engagement Ceremony

First, some terminology.

Presentation - A context and patter for a specific trick. 

Universal Presentation - These are presentations that aren't limited to any one trick. I guess "universal" is a bit of a misnomer, because they can't be used for any trick, but they can be used for many tricks. Some examples:

Word-Processor of the Gods from the JAMM #1 is a triumph effect, but that same presentation can be used for a number of other effects as well. For example any torn and restored effect, or any effect where an item reverts back to its former state.

In Search of Lost Time is a handling for the invisible deck, but you can use the identical faux hypnosis presentation for almost any other trick from the Hot Rod to color changing knives to a Zig-Zag. 

The Passion of Donny Ackerman is a word reveal, but could be used for any trick you apparently achieve through stopping time (and that too is something of a universal presentation).

The Little Idea is a universal presentation for many Tenyo tricks.

Presenting gambling tricks as a rehearsal for an upcoming gambling con you're working on is a universal presentation for those types of effects.

Universal presentations are ones that can be used for multiple effects, but you would not limit yourself to one of these presentations for all your tricks, of course.

Performance Style - Is a broad manner of presentation that encompasses some or all of your material. 

I've codified three of these in the past:

The Peek Backstage: Presenting an effect as "something you're working on" where you're looking for the spectator's input.

The Distracted Artist: Presenting effects without presentation as if they're something you're doing absentmindedly.

The Romantic Adventure: Immersive presentations where the effect is not performed for the sake of the effect, but where it serves as a demonstration of some bizarre aspect of the universe you're temporarily inhabiting with your spectator.

You can read more about these in JV1 or earlier on in the history of this site.

If I wanted to, I could limit myself to only one of these presentational styles. While doing so would limit my opportunities to perform, it wouldn't be odd or redundant for people seeing me perform over and over again in that style because these are broad styles that contain a whole universe of effects.

I believe thinking in the context of "performance styles" for the amateur performer is one of the more beneficial things you can do. At least it's been one of the most beneficial thing for me in my growth as a performer because performance styles are all about two things: the relationship between you and the spectator, and the spectator's experience of the effect. And how you handle those two things will have a greater impact on your performances than whatever material you choose or sleights you work on.

In JV1 I write that there are "hundreds" of other performance styles one could adopt and recently I have started using a few more regularly which I will be discussing here over the course of time.

The first of these is called The Engagement Ceremony and this was laid out in this post, Presenting the Unpresentable. And essentially it's just a style for process-heavy tricks that focuses on the process.

For a long time I bought into conventional magic wisdom that audiences hate "process." But then I started really paying attention to audience reactions. I think it's true that people hate boring people presenting a boring process. But if you're an interesting person presenting an intriguing process, you will find great interest from people.

People don't go see a psychic and want a lack of process. They like process. If they walked in and the reader just said, "Look out for your health. There is good news coming on the job front. See you later." The person would be like, "What the crap?" They want the process of the cutting and the shuffling of tarot cards, or using a pendulum, or tossing tea leaves or whatever the hell you do with tea leaves. People like the process.

Yeah, but that's for people who believe in psychics. Is it though? I'm not sure that's the case. I think if you believe in psychics, then you're fine if one just spits out the information. But if you don't believe then perhaps the process and the ceremony is the interesting part of it all. Again, I'm not sure. But I'm positive you can frame process as an interesting part of an effect, so long as you put your focus on the process and away from you. 

Process is like foreplay. Both in the sense that it builds anticipation for the climax, and in the sense that magicians avoid it as much as they can.

If I ask you to think of a number between 1 and 4, and I guess it, that's a pretty weak effect.

However if we go through some multi-stage ritual that, at the end, has you thinking of a number between 1 and 4, and it turns out that is the number the ritual predicted, then that's inherently much more interesting (as long as it's not an obviously mathematical "ritual").

If I predict what number you thought of between 1 and 4 that could be luck, or it could be the world's least consequential super power. But if I have you invest time in a process of ending up on a number between 1 and 4, then you're unlikely to think it's "just luck" because I wouldn't have taken up a bunch of your time with something that relied on luck. And if you're inclined to give me credit for what occurred then you don't just give me credit for predicting the number between 1 and 4, you give me credit for knowing the steps all along the way.

Anyway, this all is to say that I have been incorporating more process heavy tricks into my repertoire, as I just enjoy the low-key nature of that sort of interaction. "Let's follow these steps and see what happens." There is a passive element of this type of presentationIt that is very pleasant for both the performer and spectator and it's an nice change of pace from some of the other performance styles I employ.

The Box Step

Does anyone know the highest price a magic book ever sold for at auction? 

The Jerx, Volume One is going to be sold out by the end of this month. But I'm going to hold one copy back and humbly make it available for just $1 more than the previous record for whatever the most a magic book sold for was. I'm serious, so if anyone knows, let me know.

Coming in JAMM #2

This is choreography, literal footprint on the ground choreography, for switching any decent sized object in the course of a one-on-one magic trick. I use it as a deck switch, I also use it for the switch in Mind Reading, My Sweet. I've switched examined spoons, rubiks cubes, pens, and notebooks with it too.

The details will be in the upcoming issue of the JAMM. Subscribe here.